Publication The Steward

Vol. 14 Issue 2

March 05, 2024

Sally Vaun

Sally Vaun: Making the Northwest Corner Even Better, Forever

Sally Vaun spent much of her childhood playing in the rolling farmland of Pennsylvania. She worked on her family’s farm tending to chickens, turkeys and sheep. Living in a close-knit community of farmers, Sally often helped her friends with their chores, feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, so they could run off to play or sneak a ride on a nearby cow, climbing up on its bony back and trotting around the pasture to wild giggles.

By the 1960s, Sally was working as a volunteer at Hartford Hospital in the emergency room: cleaning and prepping gurneys, greeting patients, getting them blankets, and helping family members navigate the hospital. It was there that she met William “Bill” Vaun, a young doctor completing his residency. A year later, they were married.

Bill had grown up in Hartford, the son of Greek immigrants. His father died young of throat cancer.

“Bill’s family lived modestly,” said Sally. “His mother was not sure he should go to college at all. I think it was losing his father that inspired him to become a doctor. He wanted to help people experiencing illness.”

Bill received the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation Scholarship to attend Trinity College as an undergraduate and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he joined the United States Air Force and worked in The Pentagon.

Throughout his career, Bill practiced internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology. He taught at St. Luke’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, the Hahnemann University Hospital in Pennsylvania, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, focusing on the future of medicine, including Alzheimer’s research and education.

“Bill was meticulous as a physician and a brilliant diagnostician,” said Sally. “Colleagues brought him the most difficult cases.”

Wherever they settled, Sally was busy caring for animals, adopting retired racehorses and volunteering. In New Jersey, Sally organized a horseback riding program for children with physical and developmental disabilities and volunteered with the Junior League.

“It was just so heartwarming to see children, who were often in a wheelchair, riding, being so active and feeling more confident. You could see it in their faces. Their teachers would tell me, ‘He is so assertive now. Before he was reluctant to do things. Now he partakes much more in the school.’”

When Bill retired, they settled in Norfolk. Sally began to volunteer at the Norfolk Historical Society and the Norfolk Community Association. She served on the Alumni Board of Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury.

In 2014, Bill passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s, a disease he had spent years researching.

In 2021, after speaking with her professional advisor and considering the needs of her local community, Sally Vaun established the Northwest CT Community Foundation William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund. The fund awards scholarships to students pursuing degrees in medicine and healthcare for both humans and animals and to students pursuing degrees in environmental studies, specifically ecology and environmental sciences.

“Bill and I always knew we wanted to give back, and we were fortunate to be able,” said Sally. “If everybody would give a little, the world, and our little corner of it, would be so much better.”

As an endowed fund, the principal of the William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund will continue to grow through prudent investment, while annual scholarship awards support local students and strengthen education in the Northwest Corner forever.

“There is a need for medical professionals serving people and animals,” said Sally. “It’s important that we help young people become educated, to see what’s happening and to be able to make things better. People and animals need to be cared for.”

To make a gift to the Northwest CT Community Foundation William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund, visit, and click Give to a Fund.

Women & Girls Scholarship Fund Supports Local Nursing Students

Northwest CT Community Foundation Women & Girls Fund trustees have created The Northwest CT Community Foundation Women & Girls Scholarship Fund.

In partnership with Northwestern Connecticut Community College, The Northwest CT Community Foundation Women & Girls Scholarship Fund supports women enrolled in healthcare degree programs at Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC).

“COVID-19 has placed the need for nurses, and all healthcare professionals, into sharp focus, and we want to support that need, with your help,” said Sandra Zielinski, Women & Girls Fund Chairperson.

Norfolk Foundation Provides a Platform for Writer and Thinkers

Haystack Book Talks

The Norfolk Foundation’s Haystack Book Talks, held every fall, brings together writers and thinkers for unmoderated conversation on a wide range of topics in a celebration of ideas and discourse. In 2021, with support from the Northwest CT Community Foundation Keroden Endowed Fund, Haystack Book Talks attendees were treated to talks including: the Brenden Gill Lecture by Robert Jones, Jr., author of The Prophets, a novel; Tyler Stovall, the author of White Freedom; Manisha Sinha, the author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition; Connecticut state poet laureate Margaret Gibson, and memoirist and novelist Fenton Johnson, author of At The Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life.

“Part of our mission is to establish Norfolk as a major center for arts and culture in the region through an architecture of events designed to make this extended version of the town active,” said Norfolk Foundation Executive Director Dawn Whalen.

“Through the Haystack Book Talks we are able to engage an active committee of volunteers who have a love of good books and literature, to partner with town institutions, such as the Norfolk Library and town organizations such as the Norfolk Land Trust to collaborate on shared goals, to hire local businesses to support our program events and last, but most importantly, to bring authors to Norfolk to enjoy the natural features as well as an engaged audience,” said Dawn.

“It is all of this that makes this grant so important to our work.”

Fundholder Provides Warmth, Shelter for Therapy Goats


Healing Hoofbeats of CT in Bethlehem provides therapy to individuals, couples, families and groups through an equine-assisted psychotherapy program that includes a farm full of therapy animals, a technique that is especially effective for those who have not done well in more traditional therapy sessions.

“Often, having another being [farm animal] present during therapy helps to decrease judgment felt, increase empathy and assist clients in problem solving,” said Nicole DeFelice, Healing Hoofbeats of CT therapist.

Certified therapists and their therapy herd work with clients living with Borderline Personality Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, and ADHD, including many children under the care of the Department of Children and Families. They also provide family and couples counseling and offer Operation Warrior Horse, a 10-week equine-assisted psychotherapy program for veterans.

In 2020, a grant from the Northwest CT Community Foundation Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund supported technology upgrades enabling Healing Hoofbeats to provide telehealth services. In December of that year, Healing Hoofbeats moved to their current location in Bethlehem. Their herd of talented therapy goats were in need of a new shelter, as the outbuilding for the goats was damaged by water and pests.

A grant from the Northwest CT Community Foundation Robert V. Carr Fund supported the purchase of a new goat shelter.

“In nature and working with animals, youth learn to grow in remarkable ways,” said Nicole.

“Through building a therapeutic relationship with our herd children learn problem solving and enhanced life skills.”

Community Enjoys Enhanced Meeting Space

Zoom Room

The Community Foundation has always welcomed nonprofit staff and volunteers to use the Community Foundation conference room for meetings and events, something that became more difficult during the pandemic.

In 2021, the Community Foundation created a new and improved meeting space that better meets the needs of the nonprofit community. The Community Foundation Zoom Room enables nonprofits to hold meetings in the conference room with technology that enables both in person and distanced attendees. Attendees can share documents from their computer screens, including running videos and presentations. Enhanced microphone and speaker systems enable discussion from anywhere in the room.

Leverett W. Tiffany Fund Honors, Supports Women of Winchester


In the early 1900s, Winchester was a very different place. Horse wagons lined packed dirt roads. Men in dark suits and Derby hats swept store fronts, and young men peddled fresh fruit and fish from wooden carts. Wool was big business—Winsted Hosiery and the New England Knitting Company factory buildings stretched over Still River, providing ladies and men’s undergarments and steady employment for hundreds. By 1917, the United States was at war, and the women of Winsted were an integral part of the war effort.

During WW1 the New England Knitting Company, like many American factories had shifted its production to benefit the war effort, allocating more than 80 percent of production to manufacturing wool garments for the United States Army. With most of the men deployed in the war, the bulk of that work was done by the women of Winchester.

The dedication and hard work of those women was not lost on Leverett W. Tiffany, co-manager of the New England Knitting Company, who created a trust to benefit the women of Winchester. As a testament to his appreciation for the hard-working women of Winchester, the trust made available financial assistance to any woman who was experiencing economic hardship or illness.

In 2020, the trust came under the management of the Community Foundation as the Northwest CT Community Foundation Leverett W. Tiffany Fund. True to the wishes of Leverett W. Tiffany, the fund will continue to benefit Winchester women experiencing financial hardship.

A recent grant from the NCCF Leverett W. Tiffany Fund supported the Town of Winchester Resident’s Assistance Fund. The grant will support Winchester women experiencing needs that cannot be addressed through state and federal programs. In late 2021, the grant supported the purchase of a split box spring and mattress for a woman living in Winchester.

“We are grateful to the Northwest CT Community Foundation for awarding the Town of Winchester the Northwest CT Community Foundation Leverett W. Tiffany Fund grant,” said Joshua Steele Kelly, Winchester Town Manager & CEO.

“We know that these funds will be helpful to our community members as we embark upon the increase in heating and food costs this winter.”

Fundholders Provide Warm Beds and Nutritious Meals in Difficult Times

In the late fall, the Northwest CT Community Foundation awarded more than $80,000 in grants to nonprofits serving some of the area's most economically distressed residents and providing for necessities—food, warmth, clothing, fuel assistance and shelter.

"We see so many families in need every year. We truly appreciate your partnership in helping those who are struggling," said Pastor Kevin Mongeau of Hands of Grace.

"Thank you for the generous year-end grant you awarded our organization."

The Northwest CT Community Foundation Draper Foundation Fund and the Northwest CT Community Foundation Marion Wm. and Alice Edwards Fund awarded 42 local nonprofits critical needs grants totaling $81,150, including: Community Kitchen of Torrington, Caring for Bethlehem, Cornwall Social Services, FISH of Northwestern CT, Food Rescue, Kent Social Services, Litchfield Department of Social Services, Town of Canaan Emergency Relief Food and Fuel, and Winchester Youth Service Bureau.

The Steward

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